It’s hard to find the words for how I feel about the proposed second Irish referendum on the Lisbon Treaty: cynical, depressed, angry, frustrated, concerned – all those, and more. This suggestion is an absolute scandal, revealing the authoritarian instincts of political leaders in Europe, and endangering the future of the EU. Brian Cowen should be ashamed of himself, and should resign. He ought to be standing up for his country’s decision and demanding that the EU truly get “closer to its citizens”, to use the Brussels jargon that is often mouthed and, as we can see from this re-referendum plan, rarely meant.
Everyone in Europe knows that a Yes vote wouldn’t have led to a re-run; the Spanish were never asked to vote again after they said yes to the Constitution (which everyone in Europe knows is the same as Lisbon). Everyone in Europe knows that the heads of government and the Commission dare not ask France and Holland to vote again. And everyone in Europe knows that this is an attempt to bully Ireland that shows contempt for its democracy and constitution and that will be backed by dark threats of being thrown out of the EU (which again, everyone knows France would never be threatened with). It’d be ludicrous for a Brit like me to appeal to the spirit of Easter 1916, but I suspect quite a few Irish people are wondering what was the point of getting rid of the British, if they’re going to submit to this kind of treatment by other foreigners.
None of this is about the Lisbon Treaty any more. Solely on the merits of the treaty I might have voted yes, had we had a referendum this side of the water, in say 2005. But the merits of the treaty have long since ceased to be the issue. The issue is whether the European Council will ever listen to the people they are supposed to serve. What’s now clear is that they must be forced to do so, and that the Irish must play their part by voting No again – with a bigger majority than the first time.